Do you leak a little urine when you sneeze, laugh, or cough? Don’t worry, you’re in good company.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is common and can happen to anyone. In fact, it’s estimated that about 1 in 4 women experience pelvic floor disorders, and that number doubles by the time women are over 80 years old!
Men, on the other hand, are less affected (only about 16% of men may suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction), but it can still happen to them too.
The good news? There are quick, at-home ways you can strengthen your pelvic floor and find relief from pain or discomfort.
Of course, we always believe consulting with your gynecologist (or speaking with a pelvic floor therapist) is a good place to start. However, go ahead and keep reading to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction and how you can strengthen yours in only 10 minutes a day!
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and connective tissues located between the pubic bone and tailbone. In all people, the pelvic floor supports and stabilizes the pelvic organs, which include the bladder, urethra, intestines, and rectum. In women, the pelvic floor also consists of the uterus, cervix, and vagina.
What Does Your Pelvic Floor Do?
The pelvic floor is composed of several muscles that work together to support your bladder, urethra, rectum, anus, prostate, uterus, cervix, vagina, and intestines. It has many important jobs, including:
- Squeezing and relaxing so you can control when you pee, poop or pass gas
- Helping with blood flow and vaginal contractions during sex and orgasm
- Supporting vaginal delivery during childbirth
- Helping you get an erection and ejaculate during sex
- Stabilizing your hips and trunk
- As you can imagine, the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor can affect not only your health but also your quality of life.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (and is it common)?
Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a broad term that describes any condition that affects the muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can occur with pregnancy, vaginal delivery, menopause, surgery, repeated heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, chronic coughing, constipation or diarrhea, excessive weight gain, or other conditions that create pressure on the abdomen.
The most common symptoms are:
- Frequent urination
- Leaking stool or urine (incontinence)
- Painful urination
- Painful intercourse
- Feeling pain in your lower back with no other cause.
- Feeling ongoing pain in your pelvic region, genitals or rectum — with or without a bowel movement.
- Prolapse (sagging) of the uterus or vagina
- Rectal prolapse (sagging) for men
Benefits of Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
Like any other muscle in your body, when your pelvic floor muscles are strong, they’ll be able to better support your pelvic floor organs. Plus, researchers have found that improved pelvic floor function improves quality of life.
Here are some of the many benefits to strengthening your pelvic floor:
- Improved bladder control
- Reduced lower back pain
- Improved sexual function
- Increased core stability
- Improved posture
- Prevent prolapse as you age
- Reduced risk of stress incontinence (when urine leaks out when you cough, sneeze or laugh) or overactive bladder (the need to go to the toilet frequently)
- Better muscle tone in your bottom, hips, and thighs
Exercises You Can Do to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor in 10 Minutes Per Day
If you’re like most women, you’ve probably heard of Kegel exercises. You perform them by lifting and holding and then relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.
You can activate your pelvic floor anytime, anywhere. You don’t need equipment or a gym membership. But, the exercises can take a little time to learn properly, so we recommend setting aside some time each day in the privacy of your home to practice your pelvic floor exercises.
Kegels are safe, but we do recommend talking with your doctor if you’re having trouble doing these exercises, aren’t seeing results, or feel any discomfort.
Also, it’s important to know that Kegels aren’t for everyone. If your muscles are already tight, then these exercises can do more harm than good. Please speak with your gynecologist or a pelvic floor therapist for evaluation and treatment.
This quick, 10-minute routine includes three different sets of exercises to help you strengthen your pelvic floor:
Position yourself comfortably, whether sitting or standing and be sure to maintain the normal inward curve of your lower spine. Identify and then activate your pelvic floor muscles with a lift and squeeze motion. Do 10 repetitions. Breathe normally and completely relax your pelvic muscles between each set.
The bridge exercise is great for your glutes, but can also help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Lie on the floor with your back flat against the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be flat on the floor and place your arms at your side, palms facing down. Pushing through your heels, raise your hips off the ground by squeezing your glutes, pelvic, floor, and hamstrings. Pause for a few seconds and return to the starting position. Do 10 repetitions.
Get on your hands and knees, positioning your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Ensure your back is as straight as possible. Brace your core muscles and draw your shoulder blades back down toward your hips.
At the same time, straighten and lift your left leg and right arm, keeping the rest of your body in a neutral position. Hold for a few seconds.
Lower your arm and leg back down to their original position. Repeat the move with the opposite extremities. Do 10 repetitions per leg.
Worried about your pelvic floor? If you feel you are suffering from PFD symptoms reach out to your gynecologist. This is becoming a common need and many gynecological practices have Pelvic Floor Therapists in their offices for you to schedule with. We believe this type of education helps you get back to living fully again!